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Finale: Cleaning up Monopoly and a Bright Red Shirt November 6, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Extreme Farewell Tour.

Sunday, November 5, 2006

The comfort of my own home

Dallas, Texas

Now that everyone has had a chance to relax a little, including me, it’s time to clean up a couple of last little bits of action from the Extreme Farewell Tour.

First of all, Monopoly. I took all of our lovingly collected game pieces and played the online game. It’s really pretty spiffy–lots of action and graphics. The way it’s played, each game piece has a code number which entitles you to one roll of the dice. Collect all of a group of properties and you have a chance to win prizes. Land on Community Chest or Chance and you could win a ringtone or game for your phone.

So I played. Took me six days because you can only spin ten times a day. We got three railroads and two of a number of sets of properties, but no scores. Well, that’s not quite true. I think I hit Community Chest about eight times, and am the proud winner of eight ringtones. I’m a little underwhelmed since I always keep my Blackberry on “stun” and don’t use a ringtone. Extra ringtones for me are about as useful as a windshield ice scraper in Saudi Arabia. Oh. And we have a couple of free breakfast sandwiches. After last week cereal started to look good again. I’m going to have to save the freebies for a while.

But here’s the thing. I’m a little nonplussed because I don’t think the dice are honest. In ten trips around the board I hit Electric Company eight times. So anyway, unless Project SEED has a big use for ringtones or a sausage biscuit, Monopoly shut us out AGAIN this year. Man.

But that’s not to say there were no winners on the tour. How ’bout them Cardinals, huh? Now, I’m not sure what to make of this, but when we were in St. Louis, the Cardinals won. The day we were in Detroit, the Tigers won. The Detroit section gave me a spiffy replica jersey, which you saw in the blog posting for that day.

Bill in a St. Louis Cardinals shirtNow, the St. Louis Section was miffed that I appeared in public in the Tigers jersey, and immediately bought a Cardinals shirt and sent it to me. It apparently followed me to hotels around the midwest, eventually catching up with me in Dallas. it was embedded in three express mail envelopes by the time it got here.

So here’s my theory. The St. Louis fans should probably be glad I DIDN’T get the shirt. The Carroll effect lasted in Detroit for exactly one game, then the Tigers went down the hopper. Heaven only knows what would have happened if I’d worn the St. Louis shirt. Is it possible for BOTH teams to lose a World Series?

But, speaking as a lifelong Cubs fan, and looking forward to next year, here is a picture of me in the Cardinal shirt. I’ve taken it off now in the hopes that it will impact next year’s National League Central race.

So that pretty well closes out a wonderful trip. Thanks again to everyone in St. Louis, Detroit, Oglesby, Peru, Evansville, Cleveland, Greencastle, West Lafayette, Chicago, South Bend and St. Paul. It was a hoot!


Epi-blog October 31, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Extreme Farewell Tour.
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Sunday, October 29, 2006
The comfort of my own home
7 PM

What a great week we had.  Thank heaven I wrote the blog—I’d probably forget most of it in the whirlwind.

Was there a best day?  One kind of stands out for me—in Oglesby, Illinois.  The look on LaTrease’s face when a Sloppy Joe showed up as a “Bar-B-Que” and discovering that the Principal of Holy Family Elementary liked stale Peeps as much as I do.

Marshmallow PeepsI guess I forgot to mention this.  Peeps are these marshmallow candies that are customized for every holiday.  If you let them sit out in the air (or for that matter, condition them in a microwave) they get stale and chewy.  This is my favorite way to enjoy the subtle taste and texture of Peeps.  I let them sit for about a year before eating them.  Mary finds old boxes and asks if they’ve reached their peak of flavor yet.

Anyway, the Carus Company demonstrators used one to show the effects of vacuum by making a marshmallow Peeps ghost expand to three times its size.  Discussing this beforehand, I discovered that the Principal, Jyll Jasiek, also liked stale Peeps.  It was like finding a lost sister.

So now I’m back home.  I’m playing the online McDonalds Monopoly game now, since we couldn’t easily access it on the road.  It involves one roll of the dice on a Monopoly board for each game piece you have.  I still hope to hit something for Project SEED, but I think the dice are rigged.  I’ve hit Electric Company 15 times.  And while I like McDonald’s, I have to tell you, it sure was nice to have a Whataburger chicken sandwich with jalapenos today.

Over the course of the week I gave away most of the tour t-shirts, but I kept one, and I will treasure it.  I can start working on the list of people who should get thank you notes—and it’s huge—but in this space I need to thank my co-conspirators in the Office of Community Activities: Judith, Dennis, LaTrease, Sal and Marisa who took a crazy idea and not only made it real, but made it run like clockwork by dint of huge effort while making it look easy.  And the Local Section ACS activists who arranged for me to participate in their activities.  And back at ACS Intergalactic Headquarters in DC, Frank Walworth, my long-suffering assistant, who kept me from being two places at once.

As my term comes to an end, I have a greater recognition of the potential and the reality of our assets: our members, our staff, and the transforming power of chemistry itself.  There will be more National Chemistry Weeks.  There will be more Presidents who will do a better job of energizing volunteers and educating the public.  And there will be more benefits to the world as a result of those who practice chemistry.  But there will never be anyone who had more fun than I did.

Let’s take this ride together again some time.  Happy National Chemistry Week!

Day 8: Leaving on a Jet Plane. Or Are We? October 29, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Extreme Farewell Tour, Uncategorized.
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Saturday, October 28, 2006
Somewhere over the Great Plains on American Airlines
7 PM

The way I know it’s time to go home from a long trip is when I hit the last pair of clean underwear, and that happened this morning. Fun as this has been, it will be great to get home to see what it looks like. Mary will probably have remodeled the house in the years I’ve been gone.

Judith picked the hotel for us for South Bend, and I’m sure she knew that the Hampton Inn was next door to…what, class? Did everybody get McDonalds?

Despite what I said about her all-natural compost bars yesterday, Marisa has really gotten into the spirit of the XFT and took one for the team this morning, eating parts of an Egg McMuffin with no cheese. Unfortunately at breakfast this morning we were shut out again. I’m trying to maintain faith. Hang in, Bill! Refuse to lose! Yeah, I know. Sounds a bit hollow to me too.

Today’s schedule has been a challenge from the very beginning. Originally, we were leaving from South Bend to Minneapolis-St.Paul, but we decided to add a stop at the Chicago Section’s event on Saturday morning, then fly out from O’Hare instead. Great plan…until a huge fire in downtown Chicago closed off the entire area where the event was to be held for four days. It was too late to move it, and nothing could be done, so it was cancelled earlier this week. I’m really sorry we missed it.

Ford ExplorerInstead, we decided to make a stop at the Science Spooktacular in Elkhart, which is about 15 miles further away from Chicago than South Bend. This put us under time pressure with a 12 noon flight. We were there right at 9, did a fly-by and hit the road. It was windy today, and piloting the Explorer was like driving a billboard. It fought me the whole way.

We drove safely, but there was no grass growing under the Queen Mary. Along the way, I saw a makeshift sign in a corn field: “Leprechaun Hunt, October 6.” It made me wonder: if you actually shot one, could you eat it? And if so, are they tough to clean? I thought it odd to be having a Leprechaun Hunt that close to Notre Dame. Probably a USC alum. And if I happened to be the Notre Dame mascot, I might make myself scarce that night.

What’s in the player: We changed the rules this morning and sampled three or four cuts of various things. The Best of Strawberry Alarm Clock, psychedelic music of 1967 and 1968; Love Riot’s “Killing Time;” “Birthday,” by the Association—once again from 1967—containing a couple of hits and a few really interesting songs and harmonies; some new songs from Jenny Bruce; the Carole King “Living Room Tour”, an acoustic retrospective recorded last year and “The Who Sell Out” a strange 1967 album—is there a theme here?—that contains “I Can See for Miles” and some licks that would eventually reappear on “Tommy” which was recorded the next year.

Trash in the TrunkWe had just barely managed to fill the Explorer’s back seat with trash as we pulled into O’Hare…only to discover that United had cancelled our flight, and they had rescheduled us on one that would have had us missing the event in St. Paul. We negotiated our way onto an American flight just an hour later, and went to security.

Remember the dreaded SSSSS on an airline ticket we discussed last Sunday? Marisa caught one of those in Chicago and got full scrutiny. Tear apart the luggage, x-rays, wands, ion mobility spectroscopy on a computer wipe sample, pat down…they didn’t bring out the dogs for a full sniff search, but that’s only because the dogs were on break having a smoke. At about this point I’m remembering that she told me on Friday that she’d been having bad travel luck lately, and with the number of events and flights cancelled the last two days, I’m starting to believe her.

Marisa at Chili’sNow it was lunch time, and while there is a McDonalds in Terminal 3, I saw the look on Marisa’s face and gave her a break. We both enjoyed the salad at Chili’s as a refreshing change. If the $5 Million is won at O’Hare, I’ll just have to shoot myself.

The only problem was: this later flight in ate up our time in MSP and put us right up against her outbound flight—we would have about 15 minutes at the event, then back to the airport. When we landed, we were prepared to run, but checked the departure board. Marisa’s flight out was delayed and we would thus have some time at the event at Concordia University.  Finally a glitch that worked our way.

And what an event it was. Ten universities developed ten displays summarizing chemistry in the ten decades of the Minnesota section. They dressed in period costumes and were quite versed on the science. There were about ten companies exhibiting, and lots of hands on activities for kids. Marilyn Duerst, who was the general chair, did a great job.

Concordia is an interesting place. While it has 1000 traditional students, it currently has only a chemistry minor, one chemistry professor—Dave Blackburn–and only one person majoring in chemistry. Nathan Burrows is a senior who augmented his Concordia coursework with transfer credits. He has been President, heart and soul of the Science Club, and will go to grad school next year.

Minnesota Local SectionNathan introduced me and I presented a Salutes to Excellence plaque to Section Chair Joanne Pfieffer of Century College in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Section.

By that time, we needed to move on and Dave whisked us back to the airport. I said goodbye to Dave and Marisa (who was going to a different terminal).  Just like that, the Extreme Farewell Tour was over.  Sitting on the airplane now, I can exhale and reflect.

Looking out the plane windowSome closing remarks are yet to come.

Day 7: The “Sweetness” of Chicago October 29, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Chicago, Extreme Farewell Tour, national chemistry week.

October 27, 2006
South Bend, Indiana
11 PM

McDonalds - Chicago Theatre DistrictThe rain stopped overnight in Chicago, which allowed me to get out and forage for breakfast.  Aided by the Web, I found a McDonalds three blocks down from the Allegro, still in the Theatre District.  We’re coming to the end now, and we’re going to have to bear down on the Monopoly thing.

Unfortunately, there were no bears to be seen this morning, as we have now filled the sheet with everything but winners.  I was leaving the restaurant, with dejected mind and aching heart, sipping my Diet Coke, when a city worker approached me and said, “Can I have your stickers?  I only need one railroad for the $5,000,000.”  I said, “Ma’am, that makes you, me and about a million other people.”  I know she feels my pain.

The only thing to do was find a Starbuck’s and apply coffee to the injured area.  That turned out to be difficult, and frankly with the pressure of the Monopoly thing, I was a little miffed. I think no one should have to walk more than 15 feet to find a Starbucks and a McDonalds.  I did find a Dunkin’ Donuts, which was fortunate—it’s my road coffee “Plan B.”  Now we’re ready.

Walter Payton HighSal and I jumped a cab and headed north.  Our first appointment was at 8 at Walter Payton College Prep.  This is a new, marvelous selective school of high performing students, located in downtown Chicago, that specializes in math, science and languages.  It was named as a memorial to the late Chicago Bears’ running back whose own nickname of “Sweetness” was both a professional and personal description.  We quickly found the school office and Principal Ellen Estrada and teacher Maggie Folk.  They asked us if we needed any time to “set up” which we found unusual since we were expecting simply to have a dialogue with the first and second period classes.

Many people have recurring nightmares such as discovering you have a final exam in a course you don’t remember registering for.  When you have them, it means you’re under stress and you’re worried that you’re not performing well.  My particular performance nightmare is: it’s opening night of a play, I’m offstage but apparently the lead, the place is packed and the stage manager loudly whispers to me, “ What do you mean you never got a script?  Get out there, you’re on!”  If I’m particularly stressed, in the dream I’m also naked.

Maggie and Ellen explained that they had rearranged all the classes to give us a two-hour block in the auditorium with all the chemistry classes.  They thought we were bringing a major demonstration and hands-on show.  It is now 7:55.  Class begins at 8.  I can hear the stage manager whispering.  I checked to be sure I was dressed.

There was not much we could do.  I hadn’t even brought my computer that would have let me give a prepared seminar along with the dialogue.  We had no props, no materials, just the prospect of two straight hours of stand-up.  This is what dead in the water feels like, and it felt awful.  So, they unwound the class rearrangement and I simply spoke to about three classes for one class period.  Even that was a little difficult because the orchestra was practicing in the room behind me and I could barely hear myself think.  It pretty much worked out in the end, but I hated that we had disappointed them even though it was an honest misunderstanding.

So we headed back to the hotel.  Sal went back to DC and Marisa Burgener came on board.  At this point we are without a canonical TOT, but with a new HOTTIE who has some pretty fair TOT qualifications.  Marisa performed in, and later staffed “Up With People,” a dynamic musical review featuring young adults.  She is pleasant and energetic and is stepping in to anchor the week.  She knows the road and the pace of the XFT and is largely not daunted.  She is even a certified spotlight operator if we happen to need one.  (See previous postings for acronym glossary)

Our second appointment was cancelled and I had a tasty lunch that yielded NO winners.  Judith and LaTrease warned me that McDonald’s is not Marisa’s restaurant of choice, so she provisioned herself for the two days with a supply of organic flaxseed-green tea-vitamin-blasted-God-knows-what bars.   I looked closely at the “Cool Mint-Chocolate flavor.  Chocolate is ingredient number 32.  I couldn’t find any mint or for that matter any coolant.  The warning label says it contains “SOY AND SEEDS, MAY CONTAIN TRACES OF DAIRY, PEANUTS OR OTHER NUTS.  WE SOURCE INGREDIENTS THAT DO NOT CONTAIN WHEAT, DAIRY OR GMOs.”  I can’t tell what holds it together, but it looks like a cowpie.  The company slogan is “Simply delicious.” 

I’m still on for the grilled chicken sandwich, thanks.  I do feel a bit guilty, though, that I’m not sharing in the pressed leaves and twigs experience.

So, we were on our way to South Bend for the Midwest Association of Chemistry Teachers at Liberal Arts Colleges–mercifully abbreviated MACTLAC–conference.  To get there we had to fight our way through construction on the Tri-State Tollway.  The Tri-State is only under construction in years containing a July, and unfortunately we caught a spate of construction.  Well, it’s only an hour out of your life, lighten up.

What’s in the Player: No NCW trip is complete without John Mayer’s album “Room for Squares.”  It’s the only CD I know of with a periodic table on it.  It’s there because when John was a high school student with big musical dreams, his chemistry teacher was the only one to understand what he was trying to do in music.  Another example of a perceptive chemist.  Good music, good lyrics, good chemistry, great for driving.

Marisa brought some excellent tunes: uncommon, but directly experienced.  She heard the group Almost Recess at a concert that took place in a park across from her house.  It’s good a capella music, covering some songs even I knew on their album “Full Speed Ahead” including “King of Wishful Thinking” originally by Go West and “This Everyday Love” by Rascal Flatts.  There are also albums by friends of hers from her show touring days, such as Yawo—great African rhythms.

Finally we break free from the Tri-State and onto the Indiana Toll Road.  One fast stop along the way for a soda, and even Marisa had one.  No, we didn’t win yet.  Why do you ask?

MACTLACPhil Bays and Chris Dunlap, MACTLAC co-organizers met us at St. Mary’s, and we had dinner with about 90 chemistry professors from around the Midwest.  I spoke after dinner, but before chocolate fondue and beer.  They listened politely to the Chemistry Enterprise 2015 seminar while anticipating dessert and a refreshing beverage if the speaker would please, JUST WRAP UP.

Tomorrow we hit the finale, and the schedule is the tightest of any of the days.  The drive back through Chicago will be critical.  I certainly hope that Peterbilt we’re squiring around is up to the task.

Day 6: Back Home in Indiana October 27, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Chemistry, DePauw, Extreme Farewell Tour, Indiana, national chemistry week, Purdue.
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October 26, 2006

Hotel Allegro, Chicago IL

11 PM

I think Bill at WGREthe closest thing to the feeling of waking up at home is waking up in the town I went to college.  I walked, and sometimes crawled its streets for four years.  I woke up this morning in Greencastle, Indiana, just as I did regularly for four years in my youth.  Many of  the buildings at DePauw haven’t changed in the thirty-five years since I stopped actively living there or the hundred before I got there; even so there have been great additions and more are on the way.

WGRE FMNow, to be fair, I seldom woke up as early in those days as I did this morning because I had an early breakfast with Professor Jeff McCall, with whom I roomed for a semester my senior year.  Today Jeff is a media expert and sought-after pundit.  And to think, I knew him when.  Jeff set me up for an interview with campus station WGRE where I was once program director, and helped him get his introduction to radio.

Bill and Percy JulianAfter breakfast we went to the Percy Julian Science Center, where the department of chemistry and various other sciences is housed.  In the center is the ACS Chemical Historical Landmark honoring the synthesis of physostigmine by DePauw graduate Percy Lavon Julian, one of the first African-Americans to receive a PhD in chemistry in the US and a giant in the field, both scientifically and business-wise.  He achieved that synthesis in Minshall Lab, which was built in 1901 and demolished nearly 75 years later.

I took my first three years of chemistry in Minshall Lab.  That anything was synthesized there ever is a miracle in my eyes—I certainly couldn’t.

Bridget Gourley, Chair of the Chemistry Department, was my faculty host, and I was invited by Connie Shim on behalf of the Chemistry Club.  There were about thirty students there, and I regaled them with stories of how I was pretty much lucky to graduate at all, given how much fun I had.  I was exaggerating, but not much.  I also tried to leave them with some thoughts about managing their careers in a world of globalization—pretty much a short review of the Chemistry Enterprise in 2015 report.

Indiana is cold and rainy this week.  We left Greencastle for points north after a brisk, damp walk.  Soon it would be time for lunch—time for us to get back on the McD Monopoly program that we missed out on yesterday.

We bought supersized everything—not to eat it, mind you, but for the game pieces.  We are slowly sneaking up on the victory that will certainly be ours, now lacking only one of the pieces for each of the top money prizes that will write our names in the annals of Project SEED forever.  No jokin’, as they say at Red Hot and Blue, we’re smokin’.

When we arrived at Purdue, Jessi Fautch quickly led us out to the Klondike Elementary School, home of the Fighting Nuggets.  Care to venture a guess about the school colors?

NCW Experiments at Klondike Elementary (Home of the Fighting Nuggets)The ACS at Purdue and the Purdue chapter of Iota Sigma Pi took on this project.  Klondike is a great school and we saw about 60 really sharp third graders.  Kurt Keyes, Gianna Starck and Kelly Hutchinson did a marvelous job of making salt dough with all these kids.  The synthesis kind of got away from one of the groups, which had to repeatedly retitrate the water and flour to get the right consistency.  This eventually resulted in a rather larger ball of dough.  Klondike also has a nice little garden where there are memorials to a couple of former teachers.  They also have a couple of goats in the garden as well.  I doubt there is symbolism.

NCW SpecialAll of West Lafayette is celebrating NCW, and I have to congratulate the Purdue department on its public outreach.  Notice the day spa that is advertising an NCW special.  After a fast tour of the Purdue department by Mildred Rodriguez, we headed toward Chicago.  Lots of guy discussion: cars; sports; occasionally cars; sometimes a little sports. You know.

Speaking of cars, we’re in a Ford Explorer, following on our Chevy Equinox, we continue our celebration of National SUV Week.  We sit about 15 feet above the road, in full command of all we survey.  And it has a really good turning radius too.

On the way, we stopped in my home town of Crown Point, Indiana.  I wanted to show Sal around a little, but at the same time see I wanted to check the development progress of our old farm.

Regular readers in this space will remember that last year at this time we had sold the property and 50-year contents of my parents house.  I told you then how strange it was to see it empty, and in the rear view mirror.  Some work has been done to prepare the area for development; the house is still standing, but the inside has been stripped of hardwoods and fixtures; windows have been broken out by accident or vandalism, and it generally looks similar, but somewhat tired and bruised.

I didn’t feel as badly about it as I thought I would.  It was almost like viewing a beloved relative at a wake.  You know the identity of the body there, but stripped of a soul, that’s not the person you remember.  I remember Christmas after dinner, noisy with children and loud with relatives conversation; the smell of my mother’s baking; breezy summer evenings on the porch.  And I realized that stripped of its soul, it’s not the house I remember.  Amazingly, I felt nearly nothing.  It just was.

So we headed toward Chicago in our eighteen-minus-fourteen wheeler.  Somewhere at the farm I managed to get a stick jammed in the undercarriage, and we had to turn the radio up so we couldn’t hear it scraping the ground.  We got to Chicago, and the stick is still making that noise.

We’re staying at the Hotel Allegro downtown because that’s where our first appointments are.  This is a new old boutique type hotel; kind of hip, kind of homey.  Fireplaces and alternative music in the check-in area.  I’m not sure I fit here unless, remembering Huey Lewis, it’s hip to be square.  We had dinner in the bar and watched the game.  At 8:30 there was room at the bar; at 11, it was packed with people about the age of 30.  This is not my tribe.

What’s in the player:  Sal’s Salsa Sampler.  Sal brought along a CD of music with a strong Latin beat—some Shakira, some old Marc Anthony, some Enrique Iglesias some Santana.  Not too surprising from Sal, the drummer.

It’s also comforting to be in Chicago, a great city.  Tomorrow is Walter Payton High.

Day 5: One Day in O-hi-o October 26, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Cleveland, Ohio, Procter and Gamble.
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October 25, 2006  11 PM
Somewhere over Indiana

I could tell it was time to turn in the rental car this morning.  After you’ve had a few days on the road, all the trash tends to accumulate on the floor of the back seat behind the driver.  My general rule is:  When the back seat is full of trash, it’s time to turn in the car.  It was, and we did.

It was an early call for the flight to Cleveland through Detroit, but both flights went smoothly, then it was in a cab and out to Magnificat High School in Rocky River, OH.  The cab ride was relatively uneventful, but if that 15 minutes was any indication, the Cleveland city motto is “Use Your Horn.”

Magnificat Chemistry Club Charter PresentationMagnificat is a Catholic girls school of about a thousand students, and we were at the school to present the official charter for their Chemistry Club.  Our Chem Clubs program is a new pilot to determine whether there is interest in establishing a high school analog of our Student Affiliates.  Interest seems to be high, and I hope the pilot goes forward to become a full scale program.

The advisor for the Chemistry Club is Betty Dabrowski.  Betty is a long-time high school teacher and ACS member, innovative and respected.  There were about twenty girls present, mostly juniors, for pizza and the ceremony.  I had the chance to talk to most of them.

Their goals and planned courses of college study were quite diverse:  from a French major to a budding ultrasound technologist.  But they all had an ethic oriented toward public service in some fashion, and they were a pleasure to meet.

On a Pizza StreakThe pizza didn’t match Turoni’s, but that didn’t prevent me from ramming down a couple of pieces.  At 1 it was time to meet Mike Kenney and head on over to Case Western Reserve.  Mike has taught at the university level, worked at ACS, been Director of the American Society for Materials, and now is teaching again at both high school and college level.  He arranged for me to meet an introductory class of his.

The class and I discussed a number of issues that would matter to those students during their adult lives—disease, energy, you name it.  I tried to leave them with the idea that there was no time when innovative technology solutions were more needed, and I hoped they would consider taking on the grand challenges.

Two rows up from the bottom was a group of four students who showed up in new black t-shirts with the message: πρ on the front.  Pronouncing the Greek quickly comes out “Pi Rho” or “Pyro” which is an odd but not totally unimaginable message to be bringing to a chemistry class.  Keep an eye on them in lab, Mike.

Sal Castenada arrived from DC and took over from Dennis as TOT (Techie on Tour) and will manage the web presence materials for the next couple of days.  LaTrease is on the way back to DC as well, so we are officially without a HOTTIE (Handler on Tour, Taking in Everything).  The WHATNOT (While Having a Title, No Obvious Talent) remains the same.  By the way, Dennis got a favorable reading from the Evansville TSA on his clear, non Ziploc bag—“That’ll work”–and made it home, no problem.

It was Italian for dinner and a salad for me.  Yes, it was a House Salad.  What’s your point?  The conversation was lively as Jesse Bernstein of the Hawken School joined us for dinner.  Jesse is also a master teacher with 33 years of experience and great perspective.  We exchanged notes on class demos (his were better) and educational policy, but quickly Mike headed us off to the final event.

The South Euclid-Lyndhurst branch of the Cuyahoga Public Library is housed in a 26-room early 20th century mansion and is both a peaceful and beautiful place to encounter books.  During National Chemistry Week, kids can also encounter science, courtesy of the Cleveland Local Section.

Tonight Mike Zehe and Lou and Sue Velenyi organized hands-on chemistry in the form of concrete-making for a group of young girl scouts and a few others.  The crowd was small but attentive, and I have a feeling that most of them went home motivated to repair the driveway before winter set in, but we didn’t find out because Mike whisked us off to the airport for the trip to Indianapolis.

P&G Chemical Landmark - TideAs an aside, today was the dedication of the Chemical Historical Landmark for the development of Tide laundry detergent at Procter and Gamble in Cincinnati.  Tide was the beginning of modern detergent technology using “builders” in addition to detergents to clean clothes in hard water and do an improved job of removing dirt.  It was a great party and Katie Hunt was there representing the Presidential succession.

I have great admiration for P&G, especially recently.  I bought one of their Gillette division’s new five-blade Fusion razors, and I love it.  One wonders what the optimum number of blades is.  One version of Moore’s law seems to state that the number of blades on a standard razor doubles every five years.

But Fusion razors shave well, especially because they seem less likely to nick me.  So good are these razors that I have found that I can use them to shave the hair on my ears without risk of a nick.  Ears are sensitive places.  Perhaps you’ve never had either a cut ear or a burst water supply pipe under your sink.  Please don’t ask exactly how I know, but from experience, I can tell you that liquid gushes from each at about the same rate.  The ability to do a quick ear touch up on the road without a clipper is a real boon for those of us of a certain age who travel a lot without a barber on board.

It’s in to Greencastle tonight; DePauw and Purdue tomorrow.

Day 4. Food comes to the foreground. October 25, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in casinos, Chemistry, Evansville, Extreme Farewell Tour, national chemistry week.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006
11 PM
Aztar Casino Hotel, Evansville, IN

Breakfast came at the bountiful breakfast bar of the Casino.  They had a unique dish; kind of their own version of “Toad in a Hole.”  Take a piece of toast, cut out a 4 inch diameter circle, drop in an egg and fry it in situ.  Then put the little 4” toast piece back on as a hat over the egg.  Nice, but no match for the elegant simplicity of the Egg McMuffin.

Today we were all over Evansville.  First off, I spoke to a group of HS students from a number of schools in the Evansville area after they had participated in a Mole Day chemistry bowl.  Of course, it was a sub-optimal situation; I had to follow longtime ACS activist Marie Hankins who did a great demo show.  Marie is the first person I’ve seen who will use dry ice to blow up a soda bottle…indoors.  She does it inside a 50 gallon polyethylene waste basket and stuff still goes flying, to say nothing of a huge report.  She says she has to be careful or the ceiling tiles suffer.  These types of experiments outdoors typically draw police from ten miles away.

Turoni’s For - Get - Me - Not - InnThen it was time for lunch.  An ACS staff member, Rebecca Achurch is a former resident of Evansville and a fellow DePauw alum.  She wrote us to make sure that we knew that a trip to Evansville was not complete without a meal at Turoni’s pizza parlor.  So insistent was she that LaTrease, Dennis and I decided to go there for lunch instead of Corky’s Bar-B-Que, which initially brought tears of joy to LaTrease.

Once in Turoni’s we ordered the house special, augmented by anchovies.  I can’t get anchovies on pizza at home because Mary says they will crawl over to her half of the pizza, but that’s just wrong.  If you just put them more than an inch from the border there’s no problem because they’re so slow you have the pizza eaten before they can crawl that far.

Dennis and LaTrease also had a House Salad.  LaTrease was sorely disappointed by the Lettuce Salad at the Root Beer Stand yesterday, and declared that for the rest of the trip she would be ordering House Salads.  I didn’t understand.  It was billed as a lettuce salad, and she got a bowl of lettuce.  By analogy, what would you get when you order a House salad?  A bowl of houses?  And that’s better?
I’ve had a hard time with salads on the road lately.  Lots of fast food salad places only have “Lite Italian” dressing as a fat free option.  Lite Italian has the taste and consistency of a rather thin NCW slime recipe.  However, it can be retrieved.  Squeezing a packet of ketchup into it and mixing thoroughly turns it into kind of a sundried tomato vinaigrette.  Peppercorn Ranch is harder to synthesize in the field using the materials at hand.

By this time, our trip to Evansville was turning into a Rachel Ray restaurant review.  We even started making the “mmmm” sounds she makes for the camera during her Food Network show close-ups.

The house salad showed up with slices of peppers and pepperoni.  The vote was mixed.  Also, the Root Beer was not up to the standard set yesterday, but to be fair, it’s not Turoni’s Salad or Turoni’s Root Beer, it’s Turoni’s Pizza, and it did not disappoint.  Thin crust, lots of stuff including pepperoncinis baked right in.  Mmmmm.

Southern Indiana StudentsIn the afternoon I had an hour with students at the University of Southern Indiana, and we talked about the state of chemistry in 2015.  I was hosted by Marie, section Chair-Elect Mark Krahling and Jeff Seyler, acting department head.  A good crowd; bright kids and an interested faculty working to grow the department and the university.  I did better this time because I didn’t have to follow fire and explosions.

Indiana-Kentucky Border Section at the Western RibeyeDinner with the section was more oriented to the University of Evansville, and the section officers.  Conversation at one time turned to that regional southern Indiana treat, fried brains.  Brains can be had as a sandwich on a bun or, in some places, as a side order with eggs.  The BSE scare of a couple of years ago moved the standard brains from beef to pork.  One observer noted “it just isn’t the same.”  Yo Rachel: Can I get a “Mmmmmm” to that?

At the Indiana-Kentucky border section meeting it was great to see Rama Konduri, who is a ball of energy for the Younger Chemists Committee, and Ihab Odeh, current section chair, both from GE.  Brian Lynch from U of Evansville introduced me at the section meeting, which had a number of business majors as well as upper-level chemistry students.

It was also nice to see Ken Miller, eminence grise of GE’s polycarbonate technology group.  Ken and I were grad students together back when there were only 67 elements.  There are too many stories.

After the seminar, LaTrease and I went to check out the Casino.  Casino marketing is wonderful, leading you to believe that such places exude non-stop excitement.  There is a huge wall of winners who pocketed unheard of sums—literally HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS.  It’s difficult to resist getting some fuel for the gaming expedition by stepping up to cash a check, obtain a credit card advance, or pawn the rental car you came in.

I have to go every now and again just to remind myself what it’s really like.  We put $2 in a nickel slot machine, and it took about 10 minutes to lose it.  I suspect that the result would not have been markedly different if we had put $2000 in a $50 slot machine.  We were too tired to attempt the experiment at the blackjack tables.

Maybe it’s just that having had a statistics course ruins the idea of success at a game of chance, wall of winners notwithstanding.  I had hoped to have some pictures of us at the slot machines, but my camera was flagged, stripped of pictures and impounded.  It was for my convenience and security, you see.  Apparently what happens in Evansville stays in Evansville.  Perhaps that’s best.

So tomorrow is a 5:00 call and off to Cleveland.  There will be no casinos, but there may be pizza.  Mmmmmm.  Thank heavens I have my elastic waist pants.

Day 3: ‘Cross the Heartland October 24, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Extreme Farewell Tour, Oglesby.

October 23, 2006

Evansville, IN, 11 PM

First of all, Happy Mole Day.

Dawn came early to the prairie, as the XFT crew prepared to traverse the length of Illinois.  LaTrease got in from DC and picked us up in a Chevy Equinox, which is something between a van and an SUV.  After a half hour search for the cupholders,  we had the car under control and off we went.

We were the tiniest bit late, but since LaTrease was driving we comfortably made up time.  I was amazed at how as I watched the cars we passed recede into the distance, they looked redder than I thought they were when they were right next to us.

Our first stop was at Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby, IL.  Their Chemistry Club is a perennial student affiliate award winner and thought leader for 2-year-college ACS involvement.  We were met by Professors Matt Johll and Jeffrey Carver, who introduced us to about 20 of their students.  In many ways, IVCC is typical of two-years.  Lots of non-traditional students and many young students who see community college as an affordable start of an education.  Specifically, in this group, there were lots of nursing majors.

You can’t help but be impressed by the focus of these students, many of whom have a very clear view of what they want to accomplish.  I spoke to one serious student, who was managing a life, motherhood and a job and was torn by the fact that she was becoming interested enough in the chemistry of drug design to consider an 8 or 9 year path to a PhD.  I told her if she loved chemistry to go for it.  She will be a success in whatever she chooses.

The Root Beer StandThen it was off to lunch.  Near the college was the Root Beer Stand Drive-In.  We could have had curb service, but opted for the dining room since it was cold.  The root beer was outstanding–frosty mug, some of the root beer frozen on the inside.  I looked at the menu and really wanted the jumbo chili cheese dog, but realized it would be followed by a trip to the hospital to have my stomach pumped.  I can’t eat that stuff any more, so I had a hamburger and it hit the spot.  So did Dennis.  Oh—he also had the fried mushrooms.  No matter how long you let them cool, the first one always burns a layer of skin off the roof of  your mouth.

LaTrease ordered the Bar-B-Que, expecting thinly sliced, vinegary sauced brisket on a crusty baguette.  I should have told her that in this part of the Midwest, “Bar-B-Que” means “Sloppy Joe.”  I think the root beer would have made her feel better but she had lemonade.  We won’t discuss the lettuce salad.

Then we were off to Holy Family Elementary School for an NCW demo show.  At school we were met by Principal Jyll Jasiek.  The science program is overseen by Lynn Quick.

Employees of Carus Chemical conducted the show, and Lynn Solario facilitated our appearance.  The show was good and the kids were better.  Audience participation included a hands-on experiment of pushing the kabob skewer through the balloon.  They called up four kids and me to give it a try.  No pressure—even considering that while I’ve seen it done, this is my first first-person attempt at balloon skewering.  It worked out.  Did you hear the sigh of relief?

They had some great twists on old demos, including pulling numerous balloons out of a liquid nitrogen cooler and letting them expand (instead of pouring liquid N2 on them and watching them contract).

Carus is a family operation that has been in business for nearly a century.  Their main business is KMnO4, especially for water treatment, but another passion of the Carus family is education, which is an outlet for their philanthropy and their personal service.  Carus also has a publishing arm that produces Cricket magazine and other educational publications for children.

Bill at the Carus Chemical CompanyAfter a quick plant tour we were on the road for Evansville, five hours away.  We made a refreshment stop on the road, and food choices of the group were informative.  LaTrease had her usual of Doritos and a Mr. Goodbar, washed down by healthy, all-natural water.  Dennis also got a candy bar on the 2 for $2 program, coffee and savory peppered beef jerky.  I typically don’t eat something that smells like that.  Same issue as the jumbo chili cheese dog.  I was driving and had a sensible cup of coffee and Cinnamon Toast Crunch bar; by definition, a manly snack with fiber and vitamins.  OK, at least a boyish snack with some fiber and vitamins, if you eat the coffee cup too.
Bill and Ronnie McDWe’re making progress on the McDonalds game and used our final stop three hours later to obtain a couple more game pieces.  We are now three to the railroads, and have two instant winner breakfast sandwiches and a small drink.  I live for this.

There were two scary moments on the way to Evansville.  A dog ran across the highway, which Dennis swerved to miss.  It was a small white dog, about 10 inches at the shoulder.  Dennis claimed he first thought it was a small deer.  Clearly, we’ve been driving too long.  Dogs should not have antlers like that.

Second, we had carefully downloaded directions to our hotel and the road went through some country areas.  One of the final directions was to make a right on St. Josephs Road and look for the expressway up ahead.  Dennis was driving and LaTrease was in the co-pilot’s seat.  Five hundred yards ahead, LaTrease spotted a street sign with St. Josephs written in four-point type and insisted that Dennis turn.  He made a U to go back to the road he missed.

As we drove down roads that went from four lanes to two lanes to virtually nothing at all, I realized that if there was an expressway up ahead it would be one shared lane for both directions.  In addition, it was flippin’ dark and getting darker.  I expected to see a guy with a hockey mask and an axe charge the car.  When it came to a T we decided to turn around to go back to the main road.

Who would have thought that there was another St. Joseph’s Road, with a big electric sign, not three miles down the road?  Eventually we made our way into Evansville and the Casino Aztar Hotel.  Scientists at a Casino.  Brilliant!  We’ll see how everyone acts tomorrow.

What’s in the player:  Lots of stuff in seven hours, but of note is Hezekiah Walker and the Love Fellowship Choir, 20/85: the Experience.  LaTrease brought this cd which commemorates his twenty years in Gospel music and it is amazing.  Mostly uptempo, up-register and infectious.

More students tomorrow, and the Indiana-Kentucky Border section meeting.  Then we see whether any of us remembers our statistics courses.

Day 2: Detroit. Have mercy. October 23, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Air Travel, Cranbrook Institute of Science, Detroit, Extreme Farewell Tour.

Sunday October 22, 2006
12 PM
Leaving the Detroit Airport

The day started innocently enough, but then it always does.  We rallied at 6:30 to go to the St. Louis airport, and after stacking a cab full of luggage, I slipped into the front passenger’s seat.  I guess the driver hadn’t imagined having someone in the front seat, but I found a bit off-putting the half-full cup of brown liquid with twelve cigarette butts in it that was sloshing perilously in my cup-holder.  I had visions of a brown shower if there were any potholes along the expressway, but it didn’t happen.

When using one of the automatic ticket machines at an airport, you should know that any sentence that begins “For your convenience…” roughly translates to “In order to inconvenience you…”  In this particular case, it read, “For your convenience we have rebooked you to a later flight.”  Say what?

I herded us to the counter and decided not to tell the whole story of the XFT, although the attendant would have been enthralled, I’m sure.  Instead I simply said we had appointments in Detroit and could she explain what was going on with our flight.  What I’m about to tell you makes No Sense Whatsoever, but the reason is because our flight out of Detroit had been cancelled due to a schedule change.  Why that impacted our flight in the morning is a mystery, but with a bit of patience we were back on the early flight.

Or rather, we were booked on that flight.  As we made our way to security, we stood at the back of a 45 minute line.  But since we arrived an hour and a half early, and paragraph 3 only took twenty minutes, we still had time.

Not everyone was so fortunate.  The man in front of me still had 20 minutes of line and 20 minutes before his flight.  He went up to plead his case.  I saw him 20 minutes later sitting next to the screener, despondent.  I tell this story in order to illustrate a fine point of the security system.  If you ever look down at your boarding pass and see “SSSSSSSS” it means you have been randomly selected for full dress review (or undress as the case may be.)  This process disassembles all of your bags and searches you in that intimate sort of way.  He had the infamous “SSSSSSSS” and was dead in the water.

The current procedure allows you to take liquids through security only if a) the individual containers are 3 ounces or less and b) they all fit in a one-quart Ziploc bag.  Dennis has a clear vinyl zipper bag and has been testing the Ziploc-only rule.  He has passed the first two flights after some close questioning—especially in St. Louis, but more on this later.

Judith at Mickey D’sWe got to Detroit, rented the car and off we went.  Lunch was a fast stop at McDonalds, and we maxed out on Monopoly pieces with a chicken sandwich meal and a couple of ancillary drinks.  We are now in proud possession of an instant winner small drink, and various other bits of trash that may eventually prove useful.  Judith did not eat all her Large Fries.

Since Judith would be relinquishing her title as HOT after this stop (well, really she’s more of a Handler on Tour, Taking In Everything or HOTTIE) we let her pick the music.

What’s In The Player:  “Judith’s Workout Mix” or “Tunes for Elliptical Trainer and Water Bottle.” This is particularly pertinent with the large order of fries steaming away in the front seat.  Good stuff—mix of old Motown and relatively new dance; ranging from Michael McDonald to Black-Eyed Peas; Dexy’s Midnight Runners to Eiffel 65.  The second CD was Madonna’s first album, which contained the hits Holiday, Borderline and Lucky Star.  This 1983 offering was a middle school favorite of Judith’s and really showed me no evidence that Madonna would have the star longevity she turned out to have.

Sunday, 7 PM
Detroit Airport

Another dynamite afternoon.  The Detroit Section’s annual event was held at the Cranbrook Institute of Science.  Established in 1930, it is first a natural history museum, housing a great collection of minerals and paleontology artifacts.  The Institute is part of a spacious green campus that is home to other institutes and a number of schools.

Denise Grimsley of BASF is NCW chair.  She greeted us and escorted us first to the bullpen where donuts, sodas and various other essential nutrients were housed.  Still being full from the fries, we went to the auditorium where the University of Detroit Mercy Chem Club was preparing for its Chemistry Magic show.  Professors Mark Benvenuto and Matt Mio presided.

Gina Ludwig of Henkel took the initiative to alert Senator Debbie Stabinow’s office, and a member of her staff extended her greetings to the crowd.  This particular show was a great learning experience for both presenters and audience because there were numerous glitches in the first show, and the students came through like pros.  The kids loved it.

Tiger BillDetroit is as nuts about baseball right now as St. Louis is, which is not surprising.  In an obvious and appreciated attempt to co-opt me, Mark invested me with a Tigers home jersey, which I wore during the afternoon and for all the pictures.  I traded an official XFT t-shirt, which of course does not represent any kind of a championship, but we like ‘em.

There were a number of other schools represented: Wayne State, Oakland County Community College, Lawrence Technical University and the Roeper School.  BASF and Henkel were out in force, and volunteers from GE Plastics and Ash Stevens also did hands-on science with the hundreds of parents and kids present.  There were experiments from the NCW tip sheet for this year and previous years.  You keep thinking these things can’t get any better, and then they do.  And two more slime recipes.

At 4 we were off in the car back to the airport.  There was yet a nasty little mission to be accomplished.  We still had to exchange our Northwest tickets for the cancelled flight.  We had backed up reservations with United, and were given seats, but the agent let us know in no uncertain terms that we were considered refugees and if any bona fide United passengers showed up, well, we would be removed from the plane.  Whatever.

I passed security with no problem, drawing compliments for my correct use of the Ziploc bag.  Dennis’ 1 liter—not 1 quart; vinyl not polyethylene, zipper—not Ziploc bag was called into question, and he was sternly lectured that with heightened need for security such deviations from standard issue could simply not be tolerated.  He was advised in the future to get religion on this—and a Ziploc bag.  There may now be an all-airports bulletin to be on the lookout for him.

So we’re off to Chicago.  It’s an early call tomorrow as LaTrease Garrison joins us for the longest driving day of the trip.

Warm-up in Houston; Day 1 in St. Louis October 23, 2006

Posted by Bill Carroll in Extreme Farewell Tour, St. Louis.
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Friday, October 20, 2006
11 PM
Dallas, Texas

The Chemistry equivalent of football’s Bowl Week started tonight at the Southwest Regional Meeting.  I had told the organizers that because of the Russia trip I might not make it, but a couple of weeks ago I switched reservations to make it possible to do a fly-by.  Literally.  Extreme Farewell Tour Day 0 is on.

Travel doesn’t get much easier than this unless it’s taking the bus to work.  Come to think of it, a flight on Southwest IS taking the bus to work.  I drove 20 minutes to Love Field, and parked,  carrying only two weeks of neglected periodical reading.

Why I needed to be scanned, wanded, searched and patted down when I had neither laptop, video camera or any recognizable liquids or gels is a question for the statisticians, but getting past security was the hardest part of the trip.  They gave me enough radiation to do my crystal structure.  They didn’t bring out the dogs to sniff me, but I heard barking as a warning.  I thought about asking the guy patting me down to scratch my back since he was already giving me a massage.  There was one of those intriguing “what if” moments when the inspector saw my ACS pin and asked if I was a member of Congress.  What if I’d said yes….

Once through, it took only 25 minutes from load-out to wheels-up.  Houston Hobby was 45 minutes down the road—or rather, air.

In Houston, I met Rodney.  Rodney drives a cab and likes to talk.  I’ve discovered by traveling a lot that even if you don’t like sports, a knowledge of professional football and basketball is critical to getting the best service in a taxicab.  To be blunt, Rodney did not want to discuss the pointillist art at the Russian State Museum, but a deep drill on his true passion, the Denver Broncos guaranteed that we got to the Marriott Westchase expeditiously.

SWRM organizers Joe Hightower, Mamie Moy, Dave Singleton, Monte Pettitt and a number of others did a great job.  They took a risk and invited high school students to come for a special smokin’ price, and as far as I’m concerned, it paid off.  I met a number of girls from St. Agnes who were taking AP Chemistry.  They were self-assured, interested and fun—they have great futures ahead of them.  I pity the grad students in the poster session who got the third degree from them.

At 7:30 Rodney picked me up and we were on the way back to Hobby where we debated the relative merits of the Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks, and I was back in Dallas before 10.  The cab ride was longer than the flight.

So, to paraphrase Peter, Paul and Mary, the tour shirts are packed and we’re ready to go.  The next cab arrives at 6:15 AM.

Saturday, October 21, 2006
11 PM
St. Louis

First off, I need to explain the XFT staffing acronyms.

Um, eXtreme Farewell Tour for those of you who are new.

It’s a rotating three-person crew so as to assure that we 1) capture good content for the web and 2) keep me from wandering off.  For this leg, Judith Jankowski is the Handler of the Team or HOT because of her superior organizational talents.  Dennis Loney is the Techie on Tour or TOT, but is also the WP, which is Web Presence or Wing Person.  I think the latter means if we need an order of wings, Dennis gets to go pick them up.  I am known as the WHAT NOT—While Holding A Title, No Obvious Talent.

I cruised into the St. Louis airport with no problem, and Lisa Balbes met us there.  Every airport has distinguishing features, and Lambert Field is no exception.  Of course you can get Budweiser, the hometown brew on tap but there is also a place in Concourse C called the “Tequileria” where it seems you can get lots of different tequilas, also presumably on tap.  Must make 9 in the morning almost bearable.

T-Rex Slaying Triceratops at St. Louis Science CenterThe St. Louis section had its annual event at the marvelous Science Center.  You are first greeted by a T-Rex that has just TKO-ed a Triceratops.  Reminded me of what Monday Morning Staff meetings were like in a previous incarnation.

There were nearly twenty demonstration stations, manned by Southern Illinois U at Edwardsville, St. Louis U., U of Missouri, St. Louis and St. Louis Community College–as well as companies, Monsanto, Sigma-Aldrich and individual members.  SIUE was a big hit making polyurethane “buns” on the spot, which only one kid ate.  They had hundreds of kids and parents come through—a big success.  Greg Wall was the general chair. .Plastic Bill

Somebody did a super shrinky of me and prepared it so I could wear it like a medallion.  Nice, but that’s somebody else’s hair.
“Second” Career Teacher at St. Louis Science CenterI met lots of teachers in preparation, including a woman with one career completed already.  It warmed my heart to see another “second career” teacher—we pushed that program pretty hard last year.  She’ll be great.  The other common major was Pharmacy, and most of those kids said they picked it because they had worked in a pharmacy at some time and liked it.  I continue to believe that we lose kids from chemistry to Pharmacy and Forensics because they don’t know what chemistry “work” looks like.  I wish we could show them.

Bill Discussing the Wonders of NanotubesI’m keeping count of the number of “slime” recipes we have this week.  Today there were two, and the champion was Sigma Aldrich with its glow-in-the-dark clear slime.  Honorable Mention to Monsanto.

The World Series is on.  Tonight we’re in St. Louis, tomorrow in Detroit.  The Gateway to the West - Looking East This town is truly rockin’ for their Cardinals.  We sat in the nearly empty bar of the Adam’s Mark and watched the end of the game that St. Louis won 7-2.  The bar sound system broke into “Celebration” by Kool and the Gang, and a few ecstatic patrons decided to dance.  What followed was a late ‘70’s trash disco music/dirty dancing review, executed by people who were old enough to remember it well from the first time, as do I.  My heavens.

I’ve seen it all before.  I thought I didn’t need to see it again.  I was right.

So tonight we stay downtown, Day 1 in the books, hard by the Gateway Arch.  Makes me think of Egg McMuffins.  Wheels up tomorrow at 8:15 AM.